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Self-Reflection

At first glance, academic and reflection can sound like contradictory concepts. Writing an academic reflection essay often involves striking a balance between a traditional, academic paper and a reflective essay. In order to find this balance, consider the terms that encompass the title of the assignment.

Why is it valuable for writers to read their own work aloud?

Reading their own work aloud gives writers the opportunity to take on the role of the reader. When “writers as readers” add hearing to seeing, another of the five senses is put to work in the critical evaluation process. Words and ideas that seemed to flow smoothly and connect logically inside the writer’s head often do not reflect the same sense of cohesiveness when heard in spoken form. Writers who hear their work read aloud are better equipped to evaluate the paper’s flow of ideas at the global level and to discover grammatical, punctuation, and word choice errors at the surface level.

Understand the fundamentals of page and Web design; use visual language to convey meaning; use design to assert authority and organize work for readers.

Writers use critical questions to find cracks and crannies, places where they need to develop or clarify their thinking. In their relentless pursuit of clearly expressed, well-developed ideas, they find soft spots—that is, passages that need to be developed or discarded and sections that just don't feel right—that feel mushy like cereal that has been sitting for too long in sour milk.

The focus refers to the main idea of the text. One way to determine this main idea is to figure out the purpose of your essay. An essay should do more than give you a grade; for example, it can persuade an audience, argue a point, or inform a reader. The assignment sheet is a great place to look for the purpose of the essay. What is your instructor asking you to do? The topic, length, variety and amount of research, audience, etc., all coincide with what the assignment requires.

 There are times when writers may be asked to take an essay they wrote and turn it into a speech: perhaps they will give a talk at a conference, stand in front of a class for an oral presentation, or be asked to create a YouTube video. The assignment—the task of revising a paper into something that will be performed (read aloud or otherwise “given” live)—does not simply mean using the paper that exists on the computer screen. Altering a paper to a speech challenges the writer to engage with the audience and revise the piece into one that is easy to follow and interesting to listen to.

Design pages to facilitate scanning by using headings, subheadings, columns; learn special page design considerations for the Web.

You can enhance readability by giving some thought to the design of your documents. By using headers, lists, bullets, and other design elements, you can reveal your organization to the reader and emphasize key points. Below are page design guidelines you should consider when writing print or online documents. Your design can underscore your message. Be sure to consider these guidelines in the context of design principles.

Understand the role of revision in the lives of successful writers.

Our fast-paced, consumer-driven society is geared to offer a remarkable number of choices in nanoseconds. If the fast-food chain doesn't deliver lunch within sixty seconds, it's free. With a push of a button, people who live in large metropolitan areas can run through as many as 100 different channels on cable television.

Format describes how we set up everything from the page margins to pictures to the works cited list. Adhering to format guidelines allows our reader to easily follow along with the paper and understand where outside sources were found.

Knowing how to use formatting, whether it is MLA or APA, is a key step in the development of an academic writer. Properly formatting papers ensures that sources are cited and used fairly, that the reader can find the sources easily, and that the paper is taken seriously in academic communities.

Understand the fundamentals of typography, page, and web design; use visual language to convey meaning; use design to assert authority and organize work for readers.

"Design is a fun word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it's really how it works."
-Steve Jobs

We live in a culture where images and document design are used aggressively to convey meaning.

Style is not what we write but how we write it. For our purposes, style includes:

  • grammar (the rules that govern standard American English)
  • punctuation
  • point of view
  • syntax (how we arrange our sentences)
  • word choice/vocabulary
  • figurative language (metaphors, narratives, similies, etc.)

In order to be convincing, a writer needs evidence for her claims. Evidence includes traditional sources such as books and journal articles but may also include anecdotes, photographs, web sources and videos. The kinds of evidence that are appropriate in a particular context depend on the writer's purpose.

Academic culture is an evidence-based culture. Good scholarship requires claims supported by facts, theories, and research. Finding the evidence is not enough, though, as it needs to be successfully integrated into texts.

Learn strategies for organizing documents effectively. Learn how readers respond to deductive, inductive, and analytical paragraphs. Make effective transitions and learn how format creates belief.

Your brilliant insights are likely to be overlooked unless you learn to organize your ideas for readers. This section provides advice on structuring and organizing information for readers, regardless of the communication situation you are addressing.

The organization of a paper matters at the level of the whole essay as well as within each paragraph. The organization of sentences matters within paragraphs, as writers choose which sentences to put in what order and how to create a smooth sense of connection between each sentence. But organization also matters between paragraphs, as writers choose when to present their ideas to their readers for the best effect.

The organization of texts is based upon conventions of particular genres. The ways in which texts are organized, are structured, and flow is determined largely by audience expectations.

  • Where is the paper’s title?
  • Choose an original title for the paper
  • Center the title
  • Present the title in plain type
  • Use standard capitalization in the title
  • Use Times New Roman font, 12 pt.
  • Double-space the document throughout
  • Set the margins at 1” on all four sides
  • Indent the first line of each paragraph
  • Remove unnecessary extra space(s) here
  • Where is your conclusion?
  • Reiterate your paper’s thesis in your conclusion
  • Summarize your paper’s main ideas in your conclusion
  • Include fresh ideas in your conclusion

Use pictures and photographs to catch the eye of your audience.

The expression "a picture is worth a thousand words" is more than a truism. Images can convey powerful emotion. Images can illustrate a process or capture a moment with precision (such as a tight end catching the football on the goal line).

Understand design principles that are important for both paper and Web documents.

Font selection matters. Even the font you display your documents in can have powerful consequences. Some fonts can distract readers from your message while others draw in the reader's eye, bringing the reader's focus to your text.

  1. What are the Font Families?
  2. What is the Difference between Serif and Sans Serif Fonts?
  3. How Should You Mix Different Font Families?
  4. Strategies

Understand design principles that are important for both paper and web documents.

Contrast, repetition, alignment, proximity--these are the basic cornerstones of design according to Robin Williams, author of the frequently cited Non-Designers Design Book. Minimalism and visuals are equally fundamental design concerns. These design principles apply to both paper and online documents, as suggested by Edward Barrett, Deborah A. Levinson, and Suzana Lisanti, authors of The MIT Guide to Teaching Web Site Design:

Consider a variety of publishing options, including informal sharing, formal publication with publishing companies, self-publishing, and a variety of e-publication formats, including Web pages, wikis, and blogs.

Sharing your work with readers is an exciting and important stage of the writing process. Ultimately, you cannot determine if a document is successful until you share it with your readers and gauge their reactions.